Hair care company Tea & Honey Blends wins $30,000 prize in 2011 Rutgers Business School business plan competition

Doctors of chemistry, MBA from Rutgers, and passionate women entrepreneurs outshine 30 other startup ideas

Sifting through stacks of business plans piled high in the 9th floor conference room of Rutgers Business School’s $83 million facility in Newark, Richard Romano put his reading glasses down and paused with a broad smile. “This is a great group of ideas this year,” he declared. “Who can do the most good with the money right now?”

The answer and winner of the 2011 Rutgers Business School Business Plan Competition was a business idea by Tiffani Bailey Lash and Tashni-Ann Dubroy (RBS MBA ’11) who started Tea & Honey Blends,  creating natural hair care products. Lash and Dubroy, both with PhD’s in chemistry from NC State, were awarded $30,000 for coming in first place in the competition; while second place gave $10,000 to Heart Juice, an idea by John Vitug, Ray Li, and RBS part-time MBA student Shaun Bratton.

“The competition is all about helping launch real businesses off the ground,” said Romano, member of the RBS Board of Advisers and president of the Sales Executive Club of Northern New Jersey Foundation which sponsored the competition by providing $40,000 in cash prizes. “Tiffani and Tashni put together an outstanding presentation and I know they will make Rutgers proud.”

From left to right: John Wilson, one of the business plan competition judges from the Sales Executive Club of Northern New Jersey Foundation, Tiffani Bailey Lash and Tashni-Ann Dubroy, co-founders of Tea and Honey Blends, Richard Romano, judge and  president of the Sales Executive Club of Northern New Jersey Foundation, and Sharon Lydon, Associate Dean/Executive Director for the MBA Program.

Dubroy has been able to apply what she’s been learning in the MBA program at Rutgers Business School  to Tea & Honey. “An MBA is something everyone should be equipped with,” she said. “Getting an MBA from Rutgers has been absolutely necessary for me to really understand business and has been key to our survival.”

The entrepreneurs plan to use the winnings towards developing a PR plan and investing in marketing. Tea & Honey Blends is mainly distributed in North Carolina and Georgia but plans are in the works for major national distribution. “We are both so passionate about what we are doing,” said Lash. “The business plan competition has helped us solidify our strategy and plan of action.”

As scientists, Lash and Dubroy want to help promote more women to go into science. “I hope our story will one day help inspire other women,” said Dubroy. (See profile of Tea & Honey Blends founders.)

Tashni-Ann Dubroy (RBS MBA ’11)and Tiffani Bailey Lash, co-founders of Tea and Honey Blends, a hair care company, impressed judges with business plan ready to take off.

Romano felt that the 2011 runner-up Heart Juice was a solid idea and even liked the taste of the drink. “Reminds me of my army days,” he said. Heart Juice is an energy drink using the hawthorn berry, used in eastern medicine claiming to help promote a healthy heart. “We want to create a social enterprise that not only seeks to make money, but educate about healthy living to prevent the #1 killer in the world, heart disease,” said Li, the company’s CEO and 2011 Rutgers graduate from the School of Arts and Sciences.

Founders of Heart Juice: Shawn Bratton, CFO and part-time MBA student at Rutgers Business School, Ray Li, CEO and 2011 Rutgers graduate from School of Arts and Sciences, and John Vitug, President and graduate from Kean University.

Open to students in the RBS undergraduate, MBA, and Executive MBA programs as well as recent RBS alumni, over 30 teams competed for $40,000 in cash prizes. Previous winners include StratiMed in 2010, which provides patients waiting to receive care in a doctor’s office a hand-held interactive device with their personal health records and customized medical information loaded on it; the Intersect Fund in 2009, a micro lender based in New Brunswick and comprised mostly of volunteer Rutgers Students, and Bookswim in 2008, a book rental service with a similar business model to the one Netflix uses.

- Daniel J. Stoll

TAGS: Business Plan Competition Students Tea and Honey Blends